Friday, January 31, 2014

Sunday, January 19th

Sister Mitchell and I went into church at 9:15 this morning. We are both in the Relief Society Presidency and we had a meeting at 9:30. Sunday is the only day that will work for me right now. The airport is closed on Sunday! Sister Matiali is planning two big RS events in the next two months. A social on Valentines day for the sisters and their husbands or friends and a dinner in March for the RS Birthday Party. That is going to be a lot of work but the Tongans love to party. Hopefully we can get good people to help.

Sacrament meeting was really good. It was all about the importance of education. The kids will be starting back to school in a couple of weeks and the Bishop had one of the youth, a teacher and a parent speak. They all did a wonderful job. I had a spiritual experience during the Sacrament. As they were passing the bread, I remembered a sentence in my Patriarchal Blessing. It says, “you will feed many with the bread of life.” I always thought that meant that I would help others find the truth of the gospel, but then I thought how we did that literally, yesterday, when we sent all that bread to Ha‘api. It overwhelms me to think about how the Lord knows such details in my life and so many years before they happen. I look forward to the day, on the other side of the veil, when I will understand all of this. But for now, it is very humbling.

I heard today that when Sister Maile, the returning missionary, got off the plane with the bread, a man came out to help her carry it. President Tukuafu was at the airport and he took the bread and gave it to the employees at the airport. They were over joyed and so grateful. Then the rest of the bread was given out to the people, members and non-members at the chapels. It was such a simple thing but it did so much to lift the spirits of the people in Ha’api. It is comfort food for them. Something they are used to, something that they can’t make right now and something that they love. It was so worth all we went through to get it to them!

We had a new member in our Sunday School class today. The man who was interviewing for a job so that he didn’t have to work on Sundays, got the job and he was at church today. It will be good to have him there with his wife. Peau was back today too. We were thrilled to see her, but Vincent came with her and we weren’t thrilled about that. He wants to get back into her life. We are really worried that she will go along with that and we know that he is abusive. He still has that hard, cold look in his eyes and it seems like he just endures coming to church to please her. She is leaving for New Zealand in May and he wants to go with her. We hope that between now and then she will make the right decision. They Reynolds also came to our class, so we had a great discussion on Prayer today.

Our first Sunday as a RS Presidency went well. We had a good group at church today and everyone was very nice about our accepting these callings. I think they will all be supportive.

We had our President’s Dinner tonight and it turned out super. The food was wonderful and we had a full room. Not only were all of the senior missionaries there, but we had 8 guests, our visitors from New Zealand, The Area Mission Doctor and his wife from New Zealand, the man over the TVET program from Australia and Sister Edwards has her parents visiting. After dinner Elder Reynolds told a little about what he saw in Ha’api and I had put together a slide presentation to show them the pictures of the devistation, the gathering of supplies to help and the arrival of those supplies in Ha’api. Everyone enjoyed seeing what is going on and what we have been doing this last week. It was a good night.

The days are all starting to blend together. There hasn’t been time to do anything but address this emergency. It has been such an amazing experience to be a part of all of this and to see how well organized the church is in an emergency. We have witnessed miracles and seen Priesthood leaders receive inspiration as they make decisions. The Lord’s hand is in our lives constantly and that is very humbling.

We haven’t had time to connect with our children except a quick email to let them know that we are alright. I MISS MY KIDS!!

Saturday, January 18th

We slept in until almost 7:00 today and we were so glad to have a day off. WRONG!!! I did one load of wash and then we went into town to Office Supply to buy more supplies for the hygiene kits. We did some quick shopping and then headed to the office to continue the printing. Just when I got a good start, the phone rang. It was Ana. She was working at the fair and couldn’t leave her booth. She got a call from Howard Niu. He and the Reynolds and Steve went to Ha’api on the plane at 7:00 this morning. They were calling to tell us to put 500 loaves of bread and some butter on the 2:00 plane and send them up to Ha’api. We got the call at 11:30 and it is a 45 minute drive to the airport, let alone gathering 500 loaves of bread!!! Another impossible task. We called the largest bakery here and they started gathering bread for us. They also have cases of butter. They said they would call us back when they knew if they could meet the order.

In the meantime, I kept printing the hygiene kit information. Just as I was running off the last 3 pages, Ana walked into the office. One of her good friends, that often helps her at the fair, came to the fair and offered to help her. She didn’t know why, but she just felt that Ana might need help today. (She is a member of the church and thankfully she is in tune with the Spirit). That made it so Ana could come and help us with the bread. We got a call saying that the bread company had enough bread and butter and they would deliver it to the airport. We just had enough time to meet them and get it on the plane. (by this time my last 3 pages were copied)

We left immediately and stopped at a couple of stores along the way to pick up boxes that we could put the bread in at the airport. We all arrived at the airport about the same time and started assembling boxes and loading them with bread. I had taken tape and a marker so we could label the boxes. There was a young sister missionary going on that flight. She was returning home from her mission in Fiji. Her family does not belong to the church but by some miracle, their house was not destroyed in the cyclone when everything around them is gone. There was some damage, but it is still livable. She has already explained to them that it was a blessing because she was serving a mission for the Lord.

We had a few loaves of bread that we couldn’t get into the boxes. We taped them together and she took them with her on the plane. She held them on her lap for the flight. She was given the responsibility of making sure that the bread was delivered to the missionaries and no one else.

Once the plane was loaded we went back to the office, dropped Ana off , picked up the hygiene supplies and then headed back to Liahona to assemble the kits. We took everything to the Service Center and put them out on the large conference table. There are 6 lessons and all but two have at least 20 pages in them. We walked around that table at least 100 times, until we were not only tired but also DIZZY!!! Dr. and Sister Coons, the dentist and his wife, saw what we were doing and they helped us for the last ½ hour. We were so grateful!
When we got home there were no leftovers to eat so I cooked some pancakes and eggs and we called it good. I made a cake for the President’s Dinner tomorrow night, we brought in the sheets that we had washed this morning and made the bed. While the cake was baking I wrote in my journal. Once the cake was cooled and frosted we FELL INTO BED ---- EXHAUSTED!! Once again I thought, how did we ever get all of that done?

Ana and our sister missionary, Sister Maile, packaging up the bread. Alan with the boxes of bread that were ready to be loaded on the plane.

Friday, January 17th

I got up at 6:00 so I could cook some more Macaroni for the salad. It didn’t seem big enough and I wanted to be sure they had enough. Seriously, like I don’t have enough to think about, my brain won’t turn off and I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about the salad! I also needed to cut up 50 tomatoes for them to put on sandwiches. As soon as I got that done, the phone rang. It was 8:00 and Ana called to tell us that Steve Stebbings and the Reynolds would be arriving on the 10:00 am plane from New Zealand. She went to meet them at the airport and we had to run into town to buy 30 bush knives, 4 large water filters and spare filters and a bunch of hammers. They needed to be delivered back to Liahona and put in a van that the FM is sending up to Ha’api on the ferry. That had to be done by noon. Then we got a call from the hospital saying that they had an emergency and needed wheelchairs ASAP. We stopped at the hospital on our way into town, picked up the boys that assemble wheelchairs and headed for the office. We also got calls from Leslie and Mamana who wanted to pick up wheelchairs that were already assembled and waiting at the office.

When we got to the office, the town officer was waiting for us. He had letters from the bishop, stake president and the Minister of Health, supporting the water project that they have requested. He has now done everything that we asked of him. Then to top it all off, when Mamana picked up her wheelchairs, she told us that she has her Hygiene Training set up for Monday morning at 9:00. She needs hygiene kits for 20 people, that is over 1,000 pages of information that need to be copied off and assembled!!!!! MERCY!! Does everything have to happen at the same time???

We skipped lunch and I started printing the kits. Alan helped load all the wheelchairs and took the boys back to the hospital. Then Howard Niu and the Reynolds came to the office and wanted to meet. We met with them for 3 hours and then while the men checked their emails, Sister Reynolds helped me assemble the first 2 lessons of the hygiene training. Elder Reynolds showed us the powerpoint presentation that the Area Office sent to the First Presidency. Part of it was my report and the pictures I took of the donations and the loading of the boat. Needless to say, that was very special to me.

At 5:45 we left the office and went to the Emerald Hotel to have dinner with the other senior couples. It was our farewell dinner for the Fakatous. They will be going home on Monday. We took the Reynolds with us. Steve Stebbings decided to go back to their hotel and work. We had a lovely evening, but we didn’t eat until 7:30. I thought I might starve to death!!! In the end we had plenty of food and I ate enough to cover lunch and dinner. All is well.

Today strengthened my testimony that the Lord knows us and is aware of what we are doing. There is no way humanly possible that we could have accomplished all that we did today with out His help. Somehow, every day we are able to do things that seem impossible. This is the Lord’s work and He is so much a part of it!

Thursday, January 16th

We got an emergency call from the hospital this morning saying that they needed some wheelchairs. We stopped at the hospital on our way into work and picked up the boys that assemble wheelchairs and took them into the office with us. They put the wheelchairs together while we answered emails and wrote up more reports. This paper work is burying me! It is amazing to watch the church in action, how the calls come and the priesthood responds, but someone is always in the background, keeping records of what is happening and running all of the errands---- for this emergency, that is us. Even though it is exhausting and often overwhelming, it is such a humbling experience to be a part of all of this, especially to be on the inside and see how it all works. We sit in on phone conferences every other day where we talk to the Area Presidency and also people in Salt Lake City. The First Presidency knows exactly what is happening here and it is amazing to feel the power of the Priesthood as these men make decisions.

We snuck out for about an hour today so we could buy some groceries. We are running out of food and I needed a DIET COKE!!

I left the office about 3:30 today and went home to make a big macaroni salad. We are feeding 150 missionaries tomorrow and they eat a lot of food. Life goes on, even when there is an emergency situation going on. We are just trying to keep up with it all!

Because the phone wasn’t ringing with a new assignment for us, we went to the temple. Our temple will be closed for the next two weeks and we really didn’t want to miss this session. It was a little hard to stay awake, I haven’t slept well these last few nights, but it was very peaceful and calming. I love the temple!

Wednesday, January 15th.

Ana called at 7:00 this morning and said that we needed to be in town by 8:00 when the stores open and buy another generator. We needed to get it on the plane by 10:00. While we were at the store, she called back to see what we had found, then told us not to buy it yet, but to come back to Liahona and meet with Howard. When we got back, we met with Howard, President Tupou and Elder Tukuafu. They updated us on the needs and then sent us back to town to get a different generator and get it to the airport. The flight had been delayed until 12:00. When we got to the airport we found out that the King had decided to fly up on that flight. We waited for him until 1:30 and then when we were sure that the generator had been loaded on the plane, we left. The King has no regard for other people or their time schedules. We wanted to see him, but that didn’t happen.

When we got back to the office I started working on the spread sheet in excel for the finances. I have never done anything in excel before and I know that there were angels sent to help me. I am thinking that it was probably our new grandson that is about to be born. It seems that these new little ones come programmed to work computers and he probably knows how to do all this already so he helped me. Can’t wait to meet him!!!!!

We can’t get helping hands vests. They are on back order in Salt Lake. I called the public relations couple in Samoa to get them to help me round some up and now they want me to write up what has been happening over here. MERCY!!!!! There aren’t enough hours in the day!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

We headed into the office to put the report together that I posted yesterday. I added pictures that I took at the dock as the supplies kept coming in. . It has to be to the Area Presidency in the morning.

I spent most of the day yesterday in tears. I have never seen such generosity from people who have so little. It was so humbling to hear the stories of their sacrifice. One lady only had 4 dresses, she sent 3 of them to Ha’api. People went out into the bush and cut down their bananas and dug up their root crops and sent them. That is what they sell at the market and that is their only source of income and food. They said that they will eat fish. We are both sunburned. We were out in the HOT sun all day yesterday. We were down on the Warf and it is all cement. The heat was incredible! We both got dehydrated and couldn’t get enough water last night. We didn’t sleep well because we were so tired.

Today was another busy day. We cleaned out the rest of the supplies from the emergency container and sent them to the airport. It is a 45 minute drive to the airport and we make two or three trips out there a day with more supplies.

After lunch I finished the report and submitted it, then I started working on the financial report. They told me today that they want me to keep track of all of the money that is spent on this relief effort. I think they are crazy, but I will do the best I can. There are people spending money all over the place for different things and they all have to be coded. I am more than just a little bit worried about that!!!!

This is what it looked like when the boat arrived in Ha'api. When it was all unloaded they divided it up into 18 piles and then the bishop and the town officer from each village picked it up and took it to their village. We sent enough food to last the whole island for 3-4 weeks, until they can get more help from other sources. Our church is AMAZING!!!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

We headed into the office to put the report together that I posted yesterday. I added pictures that I took at the dock as the supplies kept coming in. . It has to be to the Area Presidency in the morning.
I spent most of the day yesterday in tears. I have never seen such generosity from people who have so little. It was so humbling to hear the stories of their sacrifice. One lady only had 4 dresses, she sent 3 of them to Ha’api. People went out into the bush and cut down their bananas and dug up their root crops and sent them. That is what they sell at the market and that is their only source of income and food. They said that they will eat fish. We are both sunburned. We were out in the HOT sun all day yesterday. We were down on the Warf and it is all cement. The heat was incredible! We both got dehydrated and couldn’t get enough water last night. We didn’t sleep well because we were so tired.
Today was another busy day. We cleaned out the rest of the supplies from the emergency container and sent them to the airport. It is a 45 minute drive to the airport and we make two or three trips out there a day with more supplies.

After lunch I finished the report and submitted it, then I started working on the financial report. They told me today that they want me to keep track of all of the money that is spent on this relief effort. I think they are crazy, but I will do the best I can. There are people spending money all over the place for different things and they all have to be coded. I am more than just a little bit worried about that!!!!

Monday, January 13th

We headed back to the airport first thing this morning. We sent up 165 more tarps and 1 ton of water. There were 4 flights going today so we came flying back to town to go shopping. We purchase 2 large generators, 3 chain saws a water pump and 4 water filters at unbelievable prices! We bought up everything they had and even after we convinced them that they needed to give us a discount for emergency supplies, we paid so much money it almost made Alan sick. We had no choice. We had to have it and we had to have it right now. We also bought more water and had everything delivered to the airport. Ana went to the airport to receive it and we headed in to the office.

I am just going to insert my report to the Area Presidency in here. It tells it all.

                    Cyclone Ian Hits Haapai Islands of Tonga
                                                                   Elder and Sister Webb

Sunday evening, 12 January 2014, a Regional Welfare Committee Meeting was held at Liahona High School to discuss the needs in the Haapai Islands. At the conclusion of the meeting the committee members returned to their respective stakes and wards. Information was sent to members of each ward concerning the needs of those affected by Cyclone Ian. Beginning at 7:00 am the next morning, donations were picked up and taken to the various stake centers. By 10:00 a.m. trucks began to arrive at the Welfare Office with donations to be loaded into containers and delivered to the wharf for shipment to Haapai. By 11:00 a.m. it was obvious that we could not handle all of the donations that were coming in. We moved the collection site to the wharf and filled the containers there. 14, 20-foot containers were filled. There was not room for more containers on the boat. The remaining donations were loaded directly into rooms on the boat, filling them to capacity. On average there were eight to ten truckloads delivered from each of the eighteen stakes on the island of Tongatapu. The response was overwhelming! Priesthood leadership managed the whole process. President Kupu, with the help of the other presidents and bishops, allowed everything to go smoothly. Hundreds of people came to help with the lifting and loading. Ana Ika, Country Welfare Manager and Elder and Sister Webb, Humanitarian missionaries, were on site to help throughout the day. By 6:00 pm the ferry was fully loaded with food, water, clothing, and bedding to help ease the emergency situation.

The boat sailed from Tongatapu on Monday night and arrived in Haapai Tuesday morning. On Monday, January 13th other equipment was ordered including two generators, three chain saws, a water pump, four water filters, 2000 pounds of water, 215 tarps, rope, hammers, axes, crow bars, and water containers. These were all sent by air.

A total of four flights flew from Tongatapu to Haapai on Monday, carrying people and much needed supplies. President Tupou (mission president) sent an additional 12 young missionaries to join with the 18 elders already on Haapai to help with the cleanup. 

That is what we did today!! We ended with FHE. The Edwards showed pictures of the different islands they have visited on their assignment as CES missionaries. Then we headed home to bed. WE ARE EXHAUSTED!!!


Just a few pictures of todays activities!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sunday, January 12th

It was a long night. The storm wasn’t all that bad here. It rained really hard and the wind was strong, but we have had worse storms in the past. I layed awake most of the night waiting for it to get worse. It was a lot worse in Ha’api. That island was in the main path of the cyclone. There were a lot of phone calls going on in the middle of the night. Ours all went through Ana because she is the Country Welfare Manager. She didn’t want to wake us up so she didn’t call us until 6:30 this morning. She came out to Liahona at 8:00 and we sat down with her to hear about what had happened. The storm was bad in Vava’u, very strong winds and lots of rain but no structural damage or injuries were reported. Ha’api was not so lucky. After leaving Vava’u the cyclone intensified and went to a category 5 rating. Then it hit Ha’api head on. Between 80-90% of the homes and structures are damaged or destroyed. All of the fruit is off of the trees that are left standing but most of them are down. Huge waves hit the coastal areas and destroyed most of the crops and the rain flooded everything. The winds ranged from 185 to 200 miles per hour. The only buildings left standing that were not damaged were the Mormon churches. Everyone that could, went there for refuge. The roof of the senior couple’s house was ripped off but they were able to find safety at the FM housing just through their back yard.

One older woman died on one of the outer islands. She was running from her house when a piece of the tin roofing blew off and struck her. She was not a member of the church. All of the members of the church and all of the missionaries are safe and accounted for. We have not heard anything about injuries.

After that update, Ana went home and we went into town to Sacrament Meeting. We only had Sacrament Meeting today because of the weather. It wasn’t really that bad but we were happy because we needed to get back to Liahona for a conference call at 12:30 with New Zealand and Salt Lake City. I was sustained to the Relief Society Presidency today. I don’t know how I am going to do that but I’ll do the best I can.

When we got home we went to the emergency container to take a count of the tarps and equipment so we would know what we could send to Ha’api. After the conference call we went back to the emergency container and got out 150 tarps and 4 chain saws to take to the airport. Elder Tukuafu, President Tupou and Howard Niu are flying up to Ha’api to access the damages and check on the missionaries and the buildings. When we got to the airport we found out that the plane was delayed so we drove back to Liahona to pick up more supplies to put on that plane. We gathered up water containers, hammers, axes, crow bars, saws, a spool of rope and helping hands vests and headed back to the airport.

Digicell, the cell phone company here, partenered with the church to charter a plane to fly supplies and people up to Ha’api. They want to get their phone system fixed up there as quickly as possible. Right now there is no communication with that island. The Red Cross and the church have satalite phones and that is the only word in and out. The plane that was chartered was coming out of New Zealand and it was really late getting here. It didn’t arrive until after 6:00. We made sure that all of the supplies were taken care of and then left them in the care of Howard Niu and headed back home.

An interesting side note. The Prime Minister had to declare an “Emergency Law” in order for the plane to be allowed to fly on Sunday. It is against the law in Tonga for planes to fly in and out of here on a Sunday.

It was a race to the fruit. Sometimes the kids won, sometimes the pigs won. Elder Tukuafu in his tent. There wasn't room for the Area 70 in the church so he stayed in a tent.

There is so much devistation. It will take years to recover from this cyclone.

Our church leaders and missionaries in their Helping Hands Vests, ready to go to work!

Just a few pictures of the damage to the main island of Ha'api.

All of the power was down, but the churches were in good shape. They mostly just lost rain gutters. Many people were being housed in the churches. They go to work on their homes in the day time and come back to sleep in the church.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Saturday, January 11th

It was really windy and humid today, but we had to do some laundry so we did it and hoped it would dry. It didn’t. It rained off and on all day and the wind picked up as the day went on. We stayed around home, cleaning and getting things ready for church tomorrow. I will be teaching the Sunday School lesson and the Relief Society lesson. We went over to the office in the afternoon to track the cyclone. It sounds like it is a category 5 now and it is headed for Vava’u and Ha’apai. We should be on the outside edge of it as it comes in this direction.

We had movie night and we were in charge of choosing the movie. We chose “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. Some of them had seen it before but some of them hadn’t. It is a great movie and everyone enjoyed it. By the time it was over it was really windy and it was raining hard. We all headed for home and hunkered down to wait and see what happens.

Friday, January 10th

We had a conference call with Elder Reynolds this morning. Ana came to Liahona to sit in on it with us. He told us that there is about a 50-50 chance that anyone will replace us in the near future, but not much of a chance at all of anyone coming before we leave for home. He wants us to finish up everything that we are working on right now and not start anything that we can’t finish or that Ana can’t handle when we are gone. Ana begged him to extend our mission call but instead he asked her if she would be willing to extend hers for an additional 6 months, in order to help a new couple get started whenever they can get one to come. She agreed to think about that, depending on her health.
We talked a lot about the emergency container and what we need to purchase to get it up to date. We already have a list of what we want to put in, we just needed to know what kind of a budget we will be working with. We discussed all of the ongoing projects and he seems pleased with how things are going in Tonga.

After we hung up we just sat in the office a little while and talked to Ana. Her daughter is here visiting her from America. She told us a little about her daughter. Ana has one older sister and one younger sister that have never married. They live in California. Ana has 3 sons and one daughter. When she had her daughter her older sister came to the hospital to take the baby home with her and raise her. It is the Tongan way, the oldest sister has the say in the family. Ana didn’t want to let her only daughter go, but she resigned herself to the fact that it was going to happen. He husband would not allow it. They kept the baby for 6 months and then the sister insisted that she be sent to America. Ana’s husband took her and left her with her Aunties until she was 6. Then he went and got her and brought her back and raised her through her school years. When she graduated from Liahona High School she was sent back to America to live with the Aunties again. She is now 21 years old and on this visit she asked her mother how she could give her up to her sisters. It about broke Ana’s heart. She cried as she told us about it. Her daughter doesn’t understand the Tongan traditions like her mother and her aunts do. It has been hard for her to be separated from her mother, especially since her father passed away 11 years ago. Some of these traditions are very hard to live with.

I came home from the office and made a banana cake to take to the High Priest party tonight. We went into town early because we needed to check on the floor at the Central Pharmacy. It still isn’t finished. Alan could go crazy before we close on that project! We had some extra time so we did a little shopping so we won’t have to go in again tomorrow. Then we went to the office because that is where we were having the party. It started at 6:00 and we received a call at 5:50 telling us that it had been cancelled because of the cyclone warning. That was fine with us, but a little more advanced warning would have been nice. Since we were already in town and we were planning on having dinner at the party, we went to the Precious Stone and had a Chinese dinner. It tasted really good to both of us. By the time we left for home the wind had started to pick up and it looks like we were in for a good storm. When we got home we made sure that everything was secure before we went to bed.


Thursday, January 9th

When we went into the office today the new beam was up in the conference room and it looks like they will have it completely done soon. We will probably move in the next week or two.

I had a virus alert show up on my computer today and that basically shut me down for the morning. I took it into the ICS this afternoon and they scanned it for me. I had over 200 viruses that had neen detected. It is all cleaned up now and they installed a new anti virus system to work along with my Norton. Hopefully I am protected now.

Tiamani, our secretary, is amazing. She received her mission call last weekend. She went to the temple yesterday for the first time and she plans to go to the temple every afternoon until the temple closes for cleaning the 3rd week of January.

The cyclone warning is back and upgraded. It is now a category 4 and headed for Vava’u and Ha’api. It could shake us up a lot, but it isn’t expected to hit us head on.

I met with Mamana, our hygiene trainer for the West Stake, this afternoon. She came to our wheelchair training and she is amazing, so capable and dependable. She will do a great job of getting this hygiene training going in her stake. I am excited to work with her.

Our packages from Tiff and Lisa came today!!! It was Christmas in January. We had so much fun opening the little gifts that they sent. It proved to us that it isn’t about the cost of the gift, it truly is the thought that counts. Just knowing that our family is thinking about us and praying for us means more than any expensive gift ever would. The best part of the packages was the letters from everyone. Reading of their love for us and their testimonies of the gospel means more to us than anything money could ever buy. It truly was a missionary Christmas that we will never forget!

We ended the day at a missionary fireside. We are having musical firesides every week or two, to help the missionaries with their new members and investigators. We sing some songs in English and in Tongan and then they have new members bear their testimonies and the Bishop speaks. They don’t last long, 45 minutes to an hour, but they are very effective when investigators come. At this fireside a man in his 30’s talked about his conversion to the church. The thing that really made him want to give up his former lifestyle and join the church, was when home teachers kept coming to see his wife and then the Stake President came to visit him. No one from his former church had ever come to visit his family or offer their help and support in any way. That made all of the difference to him and he said that he will raise all of his children in the church and attend until the day he dies. It was a powerful testimony.

Wednesday, January 8th

We didn’t work too hard today. When we got into the office, we called Tiff. We haven’t talked to our kids in awhile and we are missing them. We had a great visit with her and then we did Facetime with Kimi and Grace. It is so fun to watch Gracie playing on the blanket. She always reaches for us and we are sure that she wants us to hold her as much as we want to get ahold of her. She is really growing!

After lunch we went to our office at Liahona and called Greg. He was at Bryan’s house gloating because Florida State had won the championship game. After we talked to him we talked to Lisa and she told us that Amberly is still not doing well. Lisa is trying some things on her own and taking dairy products out of her diet seems to be helping a little. We are worried about her and hope that they can get to the bottom of this quickly. She has missed a lot of school and we just want her to be able to feel good and get back to her active life. WE LOVE OUR GRANDKIDS!!!

When we were watching the news tonight we saw a story that explained the Kava Ceremony in Tonga. It is quite the legend. Many years ago, back in the day of King Tupou the 1st, the one who dedicated the kingdom of Tonga to the Lord, the King went to visit a family. They were a poor family but they knew that to fulfill Tongan tradition they had to feed the King a feast. They went to the bush and got the food to cook but they didn’t have a pig or any kind of meat. They had one young daughter, named Kava. Because of the pressure of the tradition, they killed their only daughter and put her body in the umu to cook. While they were doing this, the King, knowing that they were a poor family and not wanting to make it a hardship for them, left without telling them so they wouldn’t have to feed him. By the time they found out he was gone, it was to late. They never uncovered the umu but let it become the final resting place for their precious daughter. As time passed, two green sprouts came up from the umu. One was the sweet plant they named sugarcane and the other was the bitter plant they named Kava. To this day whenever there is a big celebration for a special occasion, they perform the Kava ceremony to honor the King and remember Kava who gave her life for the King.

Jan. 7th, 2014

We met with Howard this morning to go over the list of what we need to put in the emergency container. It was a very productive meeting and hopefully now we can get down to buying the supplies. He told us that it would be cheaper for us to go to New Zealand and buy the supplies and have them shipped over here than to buy them here. We could include the price of our plane tickets in the project and that would be a great idea. I don’t think the Area Office would approve it, but Alan and I volunteered to go. Dream On!!

He helped us a lot with what kind of things we need to be looking for and what people already have that we don’t need to supply. He has seen cyclones go through Tonga and he knows what needs to be stored in the container. We are trying to get the container moved to a shady place where it won’t get so hot inside. We can’t put water, hygiene kits or first aid kits in there because it just gets to hot. They don’t store well in that kind of heat and then you end up throwing everything away. We will have a phone conference with Elder Reynolds this week and then I will know how to write it up.
When we got into the office this morning we found a work crew there and they had already knocked the wall in the conference room down. It doubled the size of that room. It will take a little while to clean up the mess but when it is all done it should be a nice addition to this building. Sadly, it wiped out our ocean view office but they have painted a room on the other side of the building for us and installed a new air conditioner in there. They need to work on the floor in there and then we will move over.

We took Taimani in to get her picture taken for her visa today. She is getting everything ready to go so she will be prepared to go to the MTC in the Philippines. She takes a mission prep class every Saturday morning at 5:00am. She has been doing that since she graduated from Liahona. Her teacher served in the Philippines and at one point she was in the same area where Taimani is going. She is already starting to help her with the language. Taimani told us today that she has 3 older siblings that have served missions, one that is serving in Tonga right now, a sister that leaves on her mission tomorrow and then Taimani will leave in April. Her parents will have three missionaries out until 2015. Once again -- AMAZING! Then she told us that her parents have already served a mission. When they were a young married couple with a small daughter they were sent to an outer island up by Ha’api so her dad could serve as the Branch President up there. After serving 2 years they came home and then were asked to go back sometime later to organize a Stake. On the way home they got in a bad storm, the boat sank and Taimani’s oldest sister was drowned as a todler. HOW SAD!! Taimani was excited to tell us that she is going through the temple this afternoon. She just got her call on Saturday. She really has all of her ducks in a row. She is organized and ready to go serve the Lord.

This afternoon we went out to the village of Nukuhetulu to look at their water pump and engine. We were out there a long time ago but never wrote up a project for that village. We told them they would have to come up with $2,500 before they would even consider helping them. We left and thought that would be that, but the town officer came in last week and said they had collected the money and were now ready to proceed. We took an engineer out with us to see what size of engine and pump they will need. I will write the project up but we are afraid that they won’t pass it because we can’t finish it in the amount of time we have left. We will need to know that another couple is coming in order for us to get it passed.

We had our first cyclone warning today. It was a ways away from us and they said tonight that the warning is cancelled. It is the cyclone season so we have to be prepared for the possibility of one hitting our island.

We ended the day with a walk. We waited until it was almost dark so it would be a little cooler. We saw a beautiful sunset but still came home dripping wet from the humidity. I can’t seem to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Jan. 6th, 2014

First thing this morning we went to the devotional. Howard Niu conducted it. He is supposed to be on vacation, but there is nowhere to go, so he came in to work. He said that he would only work a little while and then go home, but he scheduled a meeting with us at 8:30 tomorrow morning, so it sounds like his vacation will be a little here and a little there. It reminded me of Andy Griffith and how he had to get out of town. Howard needs to go to the beach and leave his phone home!

We found out today that we will be having a visiting General Authority in February. It will be Neil L. Anderson. Our Mission President said that he will hold a 2 hour meeting with the missionaries while he is here. That should be fun!

Alan had a meeting scheduled to talk to the Bishop that helped him with the Central Pharmacy project. They are trying to make the man who was supposed to clean the floors bring the chemicals back and get the job done. We need to close out that project. Alan knew the Bishop wouldn’t be on time and he wasn’t. We had another meeting at 11:00 so they had to talk on the phone and we are praying that this will finally happen. The man has promised to have it done by tomorrow night. We’ll see.

Our next meeting was with the head of a company that cleans sema-vis here in Tonga. A sema-vi is the water catchment container that catches and stores rainwater so the people will have drinking water. They don’t clean them regularly and they get so dirty inside. We are trying to find a way to use the missionaries to help this company so that the cost can be lowered and at least the schools and clinics can have clean drinking water. The missionaries will do it as a service project and the head of the company has already started working on schools and he is doing it for free. He wants to help the children and he knows this will prevent a lot of illnesses. We had a good meeting with them and I was impressed at the desire of this young man to help the people here and how willing he is to forgo making a lot of money to just get the work done where it is needed the most. He is a member of the church. He used to live in America, but he was deported. He came back to Tonga to start over, found the church and he has turned his life around. He is the third man that we have met that has been deported, joined the church and now they are all doing really good things for this kingdom. Repentance is real and the healing is amazing!

The Dassler’s did FHE tonight. The lesson was on developing Christ like attributes. We did the quiz in Preach My Gospel. It is good to take that every once in awhile and then see where you need to change things. We have been encouraging our kids and grandkids to do the same thing and work on one attribute every month. I don’t know if they are doing it or not, but I am and it has been amazing to see how many times that one attribute pops into your life in a month when you are really thinking about it. I hope I am doing better.

After FHE was over we had a short choir practice. The Mission President is putting on musical firesides all over the island and he wants the senior missionaries to participate. This is the first time in his life that Alan has ever been in a choir, but he is doing it. We will be singing “I Am A Child Of God” with the last verse in Tongan. It should be a good experience.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jan. 5th

Today was Fast Sunday and the first day of having our church at a new time. We moved to the 11:00 am block. It was hard to get used to just being home this morning but I’m sure that we will adjust. The Tongans love it. They love to sleep in and we had a lot more people at church today and most of them were on time. It was a good Sacrament Meeting. There is never any down time and you have to get in line to bear your testimony. That is how it should be!

We had another new member in our Sunday School class today. Her name is Paki. It is a lot longer than that but I will never be able to remember or pronounce all of it. She just goes by Paki. She is young, somewhere in her twenties, married and a member of the church. Her husband has been working on Sunday’s and is quitting his job so he can come to church. The people at home could learn a lot from these faithful members. They just feel like it is time to get their priorities straight and make the changes in their lives that will bring them closer to the Lord. They feel like they are being prompted to do it. That should tell us all something! Her husband has a final job interview for a job that he really wants where he won’t have to work on Sunday. During the last interview the employer asked him why it was so important to him that he not work on Sunday. He not only explained it to him, but he invited he and his wife to come to church with him today. THEY CAME!! He and Paki know no fear where the gospel is concerned. We are praying that he gets the new job and that the boss and his wife will want to know more about the church.
Alan finished up his lesson on the prophets today. He has been at it for 3 weeks! It was all good and very interesting, but now it is time to move on. We were able to buy the new Liahona this week. It is the conference edition. (It only cost 35 cents.) Most things are really expensive here but not things relating to the church. We talked a little about the Conference talks and how important it is to study the words of the living prophet. We will buy a copy of the conference edition for each of them and give it to them next week.

As soon as we got to church this morning, the Bishop called me into his office and shut the door. That is never a good sign. Our Relief Society President has gone to America to have a baby and she won’t be back for 3 or 4 months. That is a story in and of itself, I will try to remember to write that down. But anyway, he has decided to reorganize the Relief Society. He called a new president, thank heaven, and she has asked for me to be her 1st councilor. It won’t effect my Sunday School calling, everyone here has 2 or 3 callings. I told him that if that is what the Lord wants me to do, I would be happy to do accept that calling. I did explain that if the Mission President wants us to go to another ward or stake, we have to be free to do that and he said that he had already explained that to the new RS President. So, once again I am in the Relief Society Presidency. This is a relatively small group of active women. With some serving in the primary and the young women’s. we don’t have a huge group that attends each Sunday. I’m sure there must be a long list of inactive sisters, so we will have our work cut out for us. I can only do so much with our busy schedule, but I will do all I can and it will be fun to get to know the sisters better.

My new favorite Tongan saying is, “Life Happens.” They say it when someone dies unexpectedly, when someone gets very ill, when someone loses a job, when ever something life changing happens. They just look at the positive side of the situation, put their trust in the Lord and know that with His help everything will work out. They know His plan is perfect so they say, “life happens” and then wait to see what His plan for them is. It is an amazing way to look at life and it has been such a learning experience for me to watch people face the challenges life throws at them with a smile on their face and just keep going. Eventually they are right, things do work out and then they express their gratitude for the blessings they have experienced.

Jan. 4th, 2014

We were planning on a calm Saturday. It rained most of the day yesterday and all night. It slowed up a little this morning so we quickly did some laundry and ran into town. We always need a bunch of stuff by the first of the month and from what we hear next week will not be a good week to shop. All of the other churches in Tonga spend the first week of the new year celebrating Christianity. They have church meetings everyday and big feasts. Every family in the church is responsible to bring food to the feast and they have one everyday. The first week of the year is a good time to restock the coffers of the church and the ministers. It is a very expensive week for the Tongans and a very good week for those who sell food. It will be interesting to see this as we go into work each day.

We had a new dentist and his wife arrive today. Dr. Coons and his wife. They are from St. Anthony, Idaho and they will be here for 3 weeks. He has been in the Rexberg Temple Presidency and now that the temple is closed they have come here to serve for a short time. We just barely met them and they seem like wonderful people. They are exhausted so we got them into their house, right next door to us, and we will visit with them tomorrow.

We walked over to the office here at Liahona to check our email this afternoon. It was a sad experience. Lowell Bair passed away this morning. I loved that man and I was really hoping that he would still be around when we got home. He, on the other hand, has been ready to go for a long time and I am sure that he is happy to be out of this world and on to a better place. He missed Margine terribly and he hasn’t been well since we left. It has been a long hard struggle for him and for his sake I am glad that it is over. Alan is afraid that he might haunt us. He asked both of us to speak at his funeral and we had promised him we would do that for him. I am sorry to not be able to keep that promise. I have sweet memories of times spent with Lowell.

Alan is feeling a little better today so we decided to go for a walk this evening. We walked around the campus once and then ran into Sister Mitchell. She was out taking picturs of the sunset. (you could spend a lifetime taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises in Tonga.) She walked around once with us and then we came to our house to have some freshly cut sugarcane. A man whose garden we visited yesterday gave it to us. We also saw the Alands out walking and they stopped by to try some too. It is interesting and fun to experience tasting, but it really isn’t all that good in the raw form. The Tongan kids love it though and you see them chewing on it all the time. Once our little tasting party was over, we just sat and visited in our living room until almost 10:30. The time flew by and it was fun to spend a little one on one time with the Alands. They served a mission in Russia so many of our first mission experiences are very similar. Elder Aland had some heart problems in Russia, so they had to go home early. He had heart surgery and then they decided that they wanted to try another mission. They are an ITEP couple here, working with the teachers at Liahona. They are great! He was a school administrator in the Roosevelt, Utah School District and now they have retired to St. George.

Thursday and Friday, Jan. 2nd and 3rd,

We went in to work both days but didn’t want to start anything new. On the 6th I will start writing up the emergency container project and the gardening project. The Fm group is going to come and start the work on our building next week so we are just trying to get things put in order and put where all the dust won’t get to it.

Alan still wasn’t feeling very well, so I went to the office at Liahona by myself in the afternoon and he stayed home and rested. I also went to the temple alone. It was a huge session tonight. Every seat was taken. It looks like a lot of people have made a resolution to go to the temple. That’s good!!!

On Friday we went into the office a little later. We took breakfast to two of the missionaries that are serving in our ward. One month our ward takes them breakfast and the next month we take them dinner. I made some French toast and scrambled eggs for them. They don’t ever get things like that and since they are both from America, one palangi and one Tongan, they were thrilled. That was a little extra work, but it was worth it.

We went with Ateni Helu to look at some of the family gardens that he has helped people in his village plant. Some of them were pretty sad, but some of them were really good. I will include the pictures that I took with the project when I submit it. It shows that with a little effort a family garden can be successful here. One of the main problems that they face is that when it rains hard, these gardens flood. We need to help them build them up with some cement blocks and then fill the area with good top soil. We are really hoping we can get this project to pass. Alan is excited about it.

We had another impromptu movie night tonight. We watched ‘Return to Snowy River”. The men love those shows, wonder how they would feel about watching “You’ve Got Mail”? I doubt I will ever find out. Oh well, I liked the movie too. Jim, the man from Snowy River is not that hard to look at, the scenery is gorgeous and the horses are beautiful too.

We saw some very interesting gardens today. Some had a lot of weeds and not many veggies but some weren't to bad. At least they are trying!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 NEW YEAR’S DAY!!!

I wanted to get up early this morning and walk, hoping that I could see another sunrise like we had yesterday. Didn’t happen!! We didn’t get much sleep last night and I didn’t even wake up until 8:00. It was so QUIET around here this morning. Infact, we didn’t hear anyone at all until almost 1:00pm. The Tongan’s stay up late and get up late. That was fine with us, Alan woke up with a sore throat and didn’t feel like doing much. I decided that if we were going to stay home today I might as well do some laundry. I also put the Christmas decorations away, which probably took 15 minutes. It was nice to have it be so easy, but just like at home, we miss having them out.

I changed the calendars this morning. LOVE the picture calendar that Dennis and Carolyn sent! I put those on the fridge so we can see them a lot. It was amazing to change to 2014 on the family calendar that Tiffany made. Only 4 pages left to turn on that calendar!! That is hard to believe. We are trying not to think about going home, there is still so much work left to do here, but today it did start to become real to us.

Alan took a couple of long naps. Hopefully that will help him to get better. I spent the time cleaning the house and working on my journal. Grandma Nelson, Alan’s grandmother was a sweetheart. She told me that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you will be doing for the rest of the year. It looks like Alan will be taking naps and I will be cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. Yep, that’s probably just about how it will be. I think of grandma Nelson every New Year’s and miss her. She was a very special lady!

Me with Jeana and her sister-in-law.

Tuesday, Dec. 31st


While I was walking this morning I saw the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen. The colors were so vivid and beautiful and I could watch them slowly go clear across the sky. It was the most frustrating experience I have ever had. I was clear across the campus when it started and by the time I got home to get my camera, it was to late!! Oh how I wish I could have gotten some pictures of that. Who knows if I will ever see another one. The conditions were just perfect today and the clouds were amazing.

Inoke Mo’unga and his associate came into our office this morning to talk to us about some of the work they are doing here in Tonga. He is a young man, late twenties, early thirties, who grew up in Utah and is now living in Tonga. He is Tongan and he wants to start up a business here. He is a real entrepreneur. He is trying to find all Tongan products that he can turn into money making products and then export them to America. He had lots of good ideas and we will set up a meeting with President Tupou so that we can introduce them. He is just the kind of person that the president is looking for to try to employ all of these return missionaries. Inoke is a member of the church and he didn’t really come to us for help, just advice. It is really fun to see how the Lord works!

As we were talking he was mentioning how many of the Tongan youth steal things. I think I have written before about how we can’t leave anything outside at night because it won’t be there in the morning. Inoke said that when he reads in the Book of Mormon about “slippery things that disappear in the night” he thinks about Tonga. It is a curse of the Tongan people. I had never thought about that before.

At lunch time, Alan ran some errands and then went home and I went out to lunch with Jeana and Sister Mitchell. After lunch we went out to the bush and visited the home of Jeana’s sister-in-law. They have a 30 acre piece of property way back in the bush. It is private and beautiful! She took us out there so we could take some pictures of the many different kinds of flowers that grow there. They have a huge lawn area with all kinds of trees and flowers and then a plantation where they grow crops and raise some animals. It was amazing to see and we had so much fun walking around taking pictures.

She told us an interesting story while we were there. The property boarding her sister-in-law’s property is a place called Hule. It is where there was a huge fortress back in the day of King George the 1st. During that time there were many battles as King George fought off other men who wanted to rule Tonga. This fortress was built up just like the cities in the Book of Mormon. They piled up huge mounds of earth and then put up tall timbers to keep the invaders out. It was a place of protection for the women and children. One day there was a major battle in Homa, another village about 10 miles away from Hule. All of the able bodied men, young men and boys went to fight in the battle. While they were gone some of the invading forces came to the fortress and massacred all of the women and children who were left behind.

Jeana’s brother-in-law grew up on the property where he now lives. He tells of a time when he was out working in the bush with his parents and he heard people working and children playing in the area of Helu. His dad would not permit him to go over there. None of the Tongans ever go on that property. He kept begging his father to let him go see the children but his father would not. When they left to go home he could see that there was no one around. No people working, no children playing. It was deathly quiet there. Later he said that he knew he heard the ghosts of the people of Hule. Evidently many people have heard them over the years. Interesting story.

Jeana’s husband was born out there and lived there as a small child but then moved a short distance away. His father had 3 different wives and 30 children.

This last day of 2013 was a good day. We received our Christmas package from Kris. She sent both of us a Christmas book and a present. Alan got a beautiful tie that he is thrilled to have. It will look really good with most of the pants he wears and it is so nice to have a change. He is getting sick of the ones he brought with him. I got a lovely pair of earlings and I feel the same way. It is so nice to have something new to wear! That was very thoughtful of her and John.

When we stopped in the mission office to pick up our package, Elder Riddle was there and he also got a Christmas box. He got a bag of jerky and he doesn’t like jerky. He gave it to Alan. That made his Christmas! Webbs can’t have Christmas without jerky.

To end the year we had a game night with the other senior couples. It was lots of fun. We played vampires and villagers, the Great Dalmoody and Uno. Everyone had a good time, even those who don’t love to play games. We stopped about 10:30 so some could go home to bed and some could go to the Stake New Year’s dance. I stayed up till midnight but Alan didn’t make it. He woke up as the new year arrived though because someone close by started lighting LOUD fireworks off. They were sporadic, but they continued until 3:00am! We would just get to sleep and then someone would light another one. I don’t know what they were, but they were sooo loud and very close. It was a long night!

We saw the most beautiful flowers today. I don't know the names of them, but they were gorgeous!

When we went to Jeana's sister-in-laws house we saw the most amazing flowers. She has a beautiful, well cared for lawn, right in the middle of the bush!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Russell and his father. Russell left on his mission today. He went to New Zealand. His two older brothers are serving now too. This makes 3 missionaries out from the same family. They are amazing!!

Monday, Dec. 30th

We went into the office and I was able to finish off the finances. We have to go into town to print off the reports. I also closed out the Dental Project. All of the bills have been paid and all of the reports have been written and submitted. YEAH!!!

Ana is back and she came into the office this morning. It was so good to see her again, we really missed her. She brought me a necklace and some earrings from Fiji. That was so thoughtful of her. They will go perfectly with my pulitaha that I wear to the closing ceremonies.

President Tupou dropped in at the office this morning. This is the first time he has been down here and it was good for him to see where we work. He wanted to talk to Jeana about the employment services the church offers here. He has big plans for Tonga and is hopeful to be able to create some good jobs for the Tongan people. He has people in Alaska that want to come to Tonga and serve missions and he is trying to find places to put them. He is hoping to involve a couple with the employment services here. It is so different from the way things were in Ukraine. President Nielsen couldn’t get anyone to go over there and serve and President Tupou is trying to find things for people to do because so many want to come here. They are all friends of his. We are wondering if they will all end up in Tonga, there is such a need for them in other missions throughout the world.

Ateni Helu came to see us this morning. He wants us to do a project that involves helping Tongans to learn how to plant their own home gardens. That fits in with the church food initiative and it is right up Alan’s alley. It will be fun for him to get involved with some gardening over here. The people here have plantations where they grow big crops, but they need small home gardens where they can grow vegetables and start eating healthier food. Ateni is really passionate about this idea and he will be our champion. This would be ongoing even after we leave, but we are hopeful that we can get it approved. It is truly needed here to help curb diabetes.

In the afternoon we sent a few emails , I finished off the new calendar for the senior missionaries and we headed home to cook some spaghetti. Alan is starting to get into cooking --- well, a little. He helped me a lot tonight, we will have to see how long that lasts. We finished off the day with a nice walk. We have to wait until it is almost dark before we can walk, it is just to hot.

Oops! I forgot to post a couple of pictures, so I will just slip them in here. This is what Christmas looks like in Tonga. It was a beautiful day and those trees with the red flowers on them are called Tongan Christmas Trees. They are in full bloom at Christmas time.

On Christmas Eve we exchanged white elephant gifts. Elder Aland got the purple coat and hat that have been passed down for a few years here. It was a perfect fit, he is such a good sport!

Sunday, December 29th,

We had a new couple come to our Sunday School class today. They are from Fiji. He has been a member of the church for a little over a year now. They have been married 1 year and he baptized her shortly after they were married. They look like a couple of kids! I thought they were brother and sister until they introduced themselves. They have both had jobs where they had to work on Sundays so they haven’t been to church since we have been here. They decided that it is the latter days and they need to get on the right path. They quit their jobs and are looking for new ones where they don’t have to work on Sunday. They are living with another couple in our ward. It will be wonderful to have them in our class. They both respond to questions and are very eager to learn all they can about the gospel. That makes 3 new converts in the class now. It is really a fun class to teach.

We left our ward a little early today to hurry back to Liahona to hear a missionary talk. Russell is leaving on a mission tomorrow. He will be going to the MTC in New Zealand and then serving in the Hamilton New Zealand Mission. We love this young man. His dad was the man that Noble Erickson trained to take over the plantation at Liahona. Russell will be their third son to go on a mission and they will all be serving at the same time. One is in Australia until August, one is in the Philippines until the next September and then Russell. They are an amazing family! Russell was in our Sunday School class when we taught at Liahona and he has been one of our favorite young men here ever since.

After church, lunch and Alan had his nap, we went to our office to Skype with Kris. It is her birthday today in Tonga and tomorrow at home. We were able to talk to her for a long time and then finally we got a video picture up and were able to see her and John and Lucy. It was really good to see them and to talk to them again. Kris has always been so supportive of us on our missions and it was fun to catch up on what is happening in her life. When we talked to the kids at Christmas and now with Kris, we are grateful to be here in Tonga where people have their priorities in the right place and they all believe in God. Even if they belong to a different church, they love the Lord and understand His purpose and the plan of salvation. It sounds like things are going crazy in America. It will be a little hard to go back to all of that. We are getting used to living the simple life.

December 28th,

We didn’t get up until 7:30 today! That is the latest we have slept in for a long time. I didn’t have a very good night and this morning my back was giving me fits again. I don’t know what it is that makes it hurt like that. On the 26th, I felt so good. I really didn’t have any pain in my back at all, but today it is back with a vengance. I wish I knew what to do to avoid this. I don’t know if it is all the sitting, the driving down the washed out dirt roads or the bed. Probably a combination of all three. Over Christmas when we just stayed home and I was up moving around a lot I started to really feel good. Maybe I should take a month off and just do normal things to see if that helps. Too bad, there is to much to do for a vacation. I will just have to do the best I can and learn to live with it.

Alan did all of the hard stuff today. He cleaned the bathroom and mopped the floors and he did all of the vacuuming. I did the laundry and then layed down. We did walk over to the office in the afternoon to send a few emails. It felt good to get out of the house but I needed to get home and lay down after a couple of hours.

We had leftovers for dinner and then went for a slow and gentle walk. I think that helps. It seems to loosen my back up and make it feel better. Alan went over to the Bean’s old house tonight to watch the BYU football bowl game. The Breits installed cable in that house and then went home. The BYU channel is on Tongan cable so the men are all watching the game tonight. I stayed home, worked on my journal and went to bed early.

This was the sunset tonight. I took this picture from our front lawn. Some nights they are so beautiful it just takes my breath away!

December 27th

We went in to the office today because I needed to work on the end of the month report on our finances. Just 5 more to go -- I hate that thing!!! It took me all morning to get that put together. Before the Breits left, Elder Breit was working on his and he said, “This is a pain!” Now if an engineer who is brilliant and has been in business for his whole career says that, you can see why it overwhelms me.

We ran into town to meet Ateni Helu. He is a man that works at the temple that wants us to do a project with gardening in his village. Alan really wants to do that one so we took him a form to fill out so we can get it started. Then we did a little shopping before we bought two chicken dinners and headed to the hospital to give them to the elders. You don’t get food at the hospital here, your family or someone else has to take care of feeding you. They also do not have CLEAN WATER at the hospital. We had to buy bottled water to take to them. I can’t believe a hospital with no clean water! Scary!!! Elder King is looking good now and Elder Riddle is looking lots better. We are hoping that they can be released tomorrow. We can take better care of them at Liahona and it will be so much cleaner and more comfortable. Elder Riddle was in the bed because he was hurt the worst, and Elder King has been sleeping on the floor in his room this whole time. MERCY!! It hurts my heart to think about it. It’s a good thing that mothers don’t always know what is happening to their sons while they are on a mission!!

It rained off and on all day today and we came home in a downpour. After lunch we went over to the Edwards to ask a question and we ended up staying and visiting for over an hour. They are wonderful people and so easy to be around. We are hoping that they will get to stay here with us for the next 4 months. They are scheduled to go to Vava’u in February, but with the plane problems they might just leave them here.

We had to run back to the office for a little while to finish up the financial report. I have it all done, now we just have to go into town to print out the report so we can hand it in. We don’t have a printer here.

I had some tortillias left, so I made enchaladas for dinner tonight. Sooooo good!!

Alan went out to pick up the missionaries with Elder Berger tonight. That is his full time mission call. He drives the elders around the island. There are so many of them here now that some of them live on the campus. He picks them up in the morning and takes they to their areas and then goes back and picks them up again at night. Alan came home so grateful that he doesn’t have to do that every day. Those kids could drive you nuts. The Tongan’s are so loud and they are all so immature. It takes a lot of patience when there is a big group of them. Two by two they aren’t so bad. Bless Elder Berger, he is a saint!

I stayed home and worked on my journal.

December 26th,

Today is Christmas in America. I’m a little homesick. It makes it easier that it is HOT and sunny today, but I still miss the kids. We started calling them about 9:00 this morning. We called Tiff and her family first because we knew that they would be going to the Penrose’s for dinner. It was fun to see all of them on Skype and to hear what they got for Christmas. It was a good day at the Penrose house.
We called Dave next and had a hard time making a connection with him. We talked to Dave, saw Parx and Alisha for a minute and saw Greg long enough to hear that he had been really sick on Christmas Eve. They have all had the flu and they said that it is everywhere! That is about all we got before the internet shut completely down. (It didn’t come back up until late in the afternoon) We used our phone to finish our talk with them.

We waited a little while for the internet but it didn’t come back so we went home and called Bryan’s family. We had waited just a little too long. Bryan had taken the boys ice fishing so we didn’t get to talk to them. We had a good visit with Lisa and the girls but we really missed being able to see them and their presents
When we called Kimi and Mike they were at Mike’s sister’s house for Christmas dinner. We had a great visit with Mike and then just as he handed the phone to Kimi we lost our connection. We called back and talked to her until we got cut off again. It took 3 calls to find out all we wanted to know from Kimi. Not only was the internet over loaded but the phone lines were jammed too. We have to remember where we are and then be grateful that we got to talk to them at all. It sounded like they all had a great Christmas, even Greg. He was well taken care of by his family. We are so grateful for everyone of them, our children, their spouses and our grandchildren. We have been richly blessed!

In Tonga, December 26th is Boxing Day. It is a national holiday although we couldn’t find anyone that really knew what ‘Boxing Day” meant. All the stores are closed but the Temple was open so we ended the day with a temple session.

December 25th, CHRISTMAS DAY!!

We are missing our family today!! It is Christmas Eve for them and we know that the grandkids will be so excited. It is nice to have a stress free Christmas, but Christmas is for the little ones and we do miss seeing the anticipation and the thrill on their faces at this special time of the year.

I had put some things together for our stalking and when Alan saw them this morning he was mortified that he hadn’t bought me a present. He couldn’t figure out when I had done all that, because we are always together. He didn’t want to open anything. We ate breakfast, went for a walk and came home and got cleaned up before I could get him to sit down and open his presents. He began to relax when he saw that I had wrapped up all of the things we brought from home that we haven’t used yet, the extra toothbrushes, razor blades, deodorant etc. We have been married almost 40 years, I can’t believe that he couldn’t have figured that out. We did get two new presents. I bought him a day planner and he bought one for me. It wasn’t a surprise but it was something to open. We found out that we will have some surprises sometime in the new year. Tiff, Lisa and Kristine have all sent packages. Hopefully they will get here before we leave for home. We got one yesterday, but it was for the Beans. It was sent in October and they went home 2 and a half weeks ago.

The Breits left for home this morning. It’s sad to see them go, mostly because we are worried about his health and the students that they are leaving behind. They didn’t seem sad at all about leaving. Tonga just wasn’t a good fit for them.

We ran in to the hospital to see Elder Riddle and Elder King. They looked tough! Elder Riddle has a cut on his forehead, broken ribs and cuts, scrapes and bruises. Elder King looked a little better but he had a nasty gash going down his leg that needed a lot of stitches. Unfortunately, here he only got a few so he will have quite a scar. The was also cut up and bruised and they both are “sore all over.” They truly are so lucky to be alive. They told us about the accident and it was easy to see that they are both angry about what happened. Evidently the Mission President stopped in Vava’u on his way home from the Niuas on the boat. While he was there he was able to meet with some of the missionaries, one of them being Elder Riddle’s companion. Elder Riddle and his companion are the Zone leaders in Vava’u and the president wasn’t happy about some of the things that this young man was doing. When the president left, they got in the van to go back to their MQ and Elder Riddle’s companion drove. He was going way to fast. When the 4 other missionaries in the car told him to cut it out and slow down, he went faster and started jerking the wheel around. The van started to fishtail, he lost control and that is when they spun around and hit the palm tree. The Mission President isn’t back here yet. We don’t envy him trying to sort all of this out. We stayed and talked to the boys for about an hour and then we headed back home.

It took me all afternoon to clean, wrap, bake, cool and shred all of the potatoes for our dinner tonight. The Breits were going to bring potatoes too, but now that they are gone, I needed to make more. I am crazy about having enough food for these meals. I made funeral potatoes because we are having ham and we can get everything except sour cream that I needed to make them. I made do with what I had and they turned out great. If you put enough cheese on, everything tastes good.

The Tongan couples that are serving here didn’t come to the dinner tonight. They are all spending Christmas with relatives here on the island. The rest of us had a wonderful meal. I don’t think ham has ever tasted so good to me. It is amazing how when you haven’t had something like ham for over a year and then you get to eat it again, it tastes twice as good as what you remembered. We had plenty of food and everyone just enjoyed the evening. President and Sister Tupou and the Hamblins got home today and they all came to the dinner. It was so good to see them again and have them home safe and sound. After dinner, they told us a little about their trip. Their 3 day visit to the Niuas turned into a 2 week adventure. In short, they ate raw fish, lobster and pigs, they got eaten alive by the mosquitoes, they slept on mats on a bed frame or on the padded benches in the church, they saw some amazing tropical scenery and sunsets and they met some wonderful people. President Tupou served up there for a year when he was here on his mission and he kept saying over and over again, “It is insane”!! It hasn’t changed a bit in the last 40 years, no progress at all. That is insane!

They don’t have a descent Warf on that island, so when the ship comes in you have to go out to meet it in a small boat. But if it is high tide and the wind is blowing, they can’t get the small boat close so they tie it to a huge rock at the end of the Warf. You go out on the rock and when the wave comes in, the boat comes up and you jump in! Then they wait until the next wave and someone else jumps in. When all of the adults are in, they start throwing the small children to their parents in the boat as the waves come in. THAT IS INSANE!!! When everyone is in the small boat, they take it out to meet the larger boat and go through the whole process again. Every trip is life threatening!!!!!

The president said that they need a water project done on the main island up there and he wants to send Elder and Sister Webb up to get it going. Seriously?? After the stories they told us I have NO DESIRE to see those islands. Alan has always wanted to go there. He didn’t get to go there when he was serving here. Maybe he and an engineer could go up and have a look. I’ll send the camera and then look at the pictures.